If there is one thing the Edmonton Oilers have shown over the last few years is that having the best talent on your team isn’t going to cut it. It is one thing if you are the MVP in junior, semi-pro, or other professional league. But what we are seeing is that the NHL is proving to be a whole different animal.
Landing Connor McDavid is a good starting point to rebuild. But it is going to take more than just McDavid to revitalize once was a successful franchise. It didn’t hurt that Sidney Crosby played on a line with same guy who signs his paycheques in his first season in the NHL. Mario Lemieux also realized that Crosby, as well as Evgeny Malkin, needed a supporting cast around him in order for the Penguins to become a Stanley Cup calibre team. I can tell you, unless Wayne Gretzky decides to come out of retirement, McDavid won’t have the same luxury in Edmonton. So it is best for the young phenom to surround himself with veterans who have been in the league for a while and can mentor McDavid until he is able to take the training wheels off. A guy like Scott Hartnell or Joffery Lupul would be the ideal players to be around McDavid both on and off the ice.
The Oilers had a boat load of first round picks over the years and have been in positions to take the best player in the draft. Yet, they are in no better position as the Leafs. I would even argue that the Leafs are in much better shape than the Oilers. The problem may lie with the fact that they always took the best player in the draft and not one that addresses their needs. No doubt Taylor Hall is a great player but if the Oilers decide to trade him straight up to the Leafs for Nazem Kadri, it would be a wash. Like I’ve said before, not everyone on your team can be a goal scorer. You need to have some role players and guys who can prevent opponents from scoring on their own net.
With the hiring of Peter Chiarelli as the team’s new President of Hockey Operations and General Manager, the Oilers are hoping next season will be the one where things head in a move positive direction. Chiarelli, like his predecessors, has experience on championship teams. So there is no question he knows what it takes to put together a contending team. But we’ve witnessed in the past that having a guy in charge that has won it before means very little. Chiarelli’s legacy will not be determined on how he does at the draft but rather on the trade front and free agency.
Players like McDavid come once every ten years or so, so the Oilers better not blow this opportunity to use this kid to his full potential. Otherwise, he’ll be just another first overall pick in a list of past Oilers’ first overall picks.